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digital distortion: from concept to execution


After being accepted into the Art Direction program in Advertising last year, I’m excited to begin taking classes specific to my major that will help me advance my technical and cognitive creativity. My first project is called Why Do You Do What You Do? - a challenge on introspection that must be portrayed using your own pictures and integrated text. After some thought and personal observation, I realized that smoking (weed only) takes up a lot of my time. You could say I’m just a lazy stoner, which is true some days, but my primary motivation is the sense of enhanced insight that I get from being in such an altered state of mind. My goal became portraying the concept that reality is multi-dimensional, and smoking is one way I allow myself to be present in other dimensions.

shooting the image

Technical constraints required my project to one 8x8 in. image, utilizing photos and copy we had created ourselves - no stock photos or quotes allowed. I took a walk around the block with my fucking homie, Sara Fitzgerald Allison, to find a spot that fit the tone I had in mind. It was important to me that the photo be taken at night to place emphasis on the smoke while embodying my twilight aesthetic. The entire shooting process took no longer than 20 minutes. This is not to say we couldn’t have taken more time to stage wider variety of images, only that creating does not have to be a long, extravagant process. Go out and do the work. You will often be surprised what you end up with.

When shooting for conceptual projects, I like to have a vision in mind before I leave. This ‘vision’ is usually simple; the subject I want to capture and what an ideal background would look like behind it. Be open keeping the location dynamic and capturing angles that you wouldn’t normally see. Sometimes the most eccentric, random shots end up being most compelling. The subject of my image needed to be the smoke, rather than just myself. I wanted there to be some element of the city in the background that also showed it was nighttime. Take a look at some test shots before deciding on the final image:

editing process

phase 1: alignment

My editing process begins with an initial edit of the RAW files in Adobe Lightroom to edit shadows, lighting, etc. and then importing them into Photoshop for Recent inspiration led me to have a lot of abstract-looking thoughts floating around my mind. I incorporated this by angling the same photo from three perspectives and using adjustment layers to edit the colors until the tone felt balanced. As your eye moves around the photo, I added distortion and stylizing filters of varying strength to heighten the sense of motion and distortion.


phase 2: liquify

To further blend the image together and portray the sense of distortion that comes with being high, I spent a good portion of time using Liquify. To be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with that tool but editing this image restored my faith in its good work. Using around 80% pressure, I edited the edge of each photo, keeping in mind the same idea of a varying strength. By ‘strength’, I mean how prominent the drip effect is on each of the photos - some are shorter, some are more dramatic.

The text came from the thoughts that floats around in my mind while I’m high. They are usually random, food-related, future projects, but most importantly, an alternate reality where ANYTHING I want is possible. Mundane obstacles and anticipated risks seem so small to me, in exchange for a feeling of intense confidence and determination. Our goals are often so much more possible than we realize, and sometimes it takes being on an altered state of mind for our intuition to fully understand. "REALITY IS NOT ALWAYS WHAT IT SEEMS” felt like the perfect way to embody this idea. Flipping the second line of text upside down was another trick to continue the sense of motion, as your eye reads each line in a zig-zag pattern.


phase 3: into space

Using a few starry images, I created an overlay that would help blend the colors and give off a space vibe. SOmetimes you just have to own your place in the world as a stoned alien who loves making art and I wanted this project to embody that idea. The stars are heavier in some places and scarce in others, which was intentional. Even while creating distortions, I try to maintain a certain level of photorealism. Enhancing the contrast made the three original colors vibrant and gave the overall image more of a galaxy vibe. If you get high enough, you might just end up in space.


Let me know what you think of these tutorial-style posts! SO MANY EXCITING THINGS COMING THIS WEEK I CANNOT WAIT!!!! Someone stole one of my products (GLITTER IPHONE CASE) and I honestly just hope they liked it lol. Hope you all can see the VIZION


Sadie GoodwinComment